Today’s interview was with Katie Brewer of Your Richest Life financial planning. Katie has a very interesting background. She started at the same firm I did -- Edward Jones -- several years back and much like I did, decided at some point that was not going to be long-term answer for her career. Here’s the story of how she ended up starting her own firm.
Sean: Today I'm talking to Katie Brewer of Your Richest Life financial planning and I'm excited to talk to Katie because she's got a different perspective and experience than anyone we’ve had on so far. Katie, thanks for joining me.
Katie: Hi, Sean! Thanks for having me on.
Sean: My pleasure. You and I have a similar background in terms of where we started at the original firm but we’ve kind of taken different paths to a roughly, vaguely similar outcome. Why don't you give us a little sense of how you got in the business and a little bit of why you got in the business. I know you've got a long and winding road but give me a sense of how you ended up where you are today.
Katie: I guess the moment that I decided that I even wanted to have anything to do with numbers, finance, working with people, etcetera, back in college when I was scared to death because I was a senior in college and I was about to graduate with a Biology degree, which I joke as like the hardest degree that you can get and then not really ever use again. Maybe if I gone on to actually get the medical degree too. then I can say, no really it's really like the hardest thing.
Sean: There are no basket-weaving courses in that degree?
Katie: No, unfortunately there was no basket-weaving classes that were elective, like they were all pretty hard. But back then and even as a senior in college I was just scared to death of “What am I gonna do when I go out and have to pay my own bills?” and I don’t know what I’m doing. I feel like my parents didn't really teach me so I took a personal finance class as an elective. I don't even think I got credit for it. I think I used my electives already but they offered it and I was like “I'm just gonna go ahead and take advantage of this class.” and as I took I was just like “This is a meeting” like you get to play around with numbers but you also get to help people reach goals and at that point I was like “I don’t know how I’m gonna do this with my really hard biology degree that i'm about to graduate with” but somehow I wanna step my foot in the door and work in financial services.
Sean: Cool. And then when you started -- I guess when you graduated or shortly thereafter -- when you found your first role in the industry, I know we all have different ways we end up where we start but how did you end up at the first place?
Katie: I interviewed with a couple of places and I really like that the first place that I started offered kind of the ability to do your own thing (or at least it’s safe to say that) and kind of be in a branch office where you didn't have to share it with like a hundred other people and be able to work with people in that community. So all of that really appealed to me. I really thought that it sounded like a good opportunity and I was like “Well, if I dive in and this doesn't work, I always can go into doing lab work or become a teacher or something else that you do with a biology degree.
Sean: That sounds very similar why I ended up at that same firm. It was day-to-day operationally nice to have your own ship, so to speak.
Katie: Right. Exactly.
Sean: And I think you've talked about the other places that we'll link to the show notes. But I guess you found that the (how do we say it) business development approach wasn't ideal for you. Is that a good summary? And why don’t you talk a little bit about that?
Katie: Yeah, it was kind of funny because it has always worked for this firm and I guess they feel like it still works for them and that it was effective. For me, wandering around in the neighborhood (really was not a nice neighborhood anymore like it used to be) and there were still some seniors there that bought houses when it had been a nice neighborhood. But there were actually drug deals going on across the street and we spotted prostitutes a couple of times and I was to a point where “You know what? I’m going. This is kind of ridiculous.” I'm like just wandering around the neighborhood asking people for their personal information in like a really awkward manner like “Hi! I'm here at your doorstep to tell you that I'm opening an office right down the street. You should tell me about yourself.” And they’re just like “What? This is weird. Where did you come from? Where's your car? I’m calling the cops.”
Sean: And if I'm not mistaken you've talked about that your youthfulness/youthful appearance didn't seem like an asset to you at that time, right?
Katie: Yeah. Back then I was twenty-three or twenty-four and I've always looked probably five to ten years younger than I am. And so people are like “Is this a school project? Are you selling cookies? What are you doing here?” And I'm like “No, I run a financial advising firm.” It was just funny because I got all kinds of comments. People are like “Really? How old are you? When did you graduate from college?” So it was definitely an interesting experience but I think it was also one that was like a good character building experience because it's like, if I survive that I can do a lot of other things.
Sean: Yeah, agreed. I always think (I assume) you at least got a client or two here and there out of that process, right?
Katie: Yeah I got a few people that just didn't think that it was weird that I was knocking on their door and asking them for their personal financial information.
Sean: I've always looked at that as, I’m pretty sure it's not the most efficient method especially now but after doing that, I feel like it's a secret to society if you can give the handshake and “Hey, I've been there and done that..”
Sean: Nothing else seems too difficult to ask people if they want your help.
Katie: Right. Exactly.
Sean: So when did realize that maybe it wasn’t the long-term solution? Tell us a little bit about the path you set off to find your ideal scenario and kind of what were you looking for and then what did you find and kind of that process. I've spend a lot of time -- I think I’ve talked on this podcast about all the different people I’ve talked to because I’m interested in the different ways to do things in our business and I've talked to a lot of people you’ve kind of lived this so I'm kind of interested to hear about that.
Katie: I think I realized even when I was at that first firm that I really wanted for people to essentially commit to something. I’ve never felt like I was really good at sales so if somebody is not on board with something, I'm probably not the best person to get them on board with it. But what I found is there are lot of people out there that need help and are on board with getting help, or on board with actually paying for it. So I essentially tried to find my way closer and closer to a model that felt like comfortable for me, where I could be kind of working with the people that I wanted to be working with and do it in a way that I was actually comfortable working where it wasn't just all like, oh well at the very end they buy some product and I get paid beaucoup dollars off of it. You know, I don’t think that's a wrong model but I just didn’t feel like it was great for me.
Sean: Gotcha. And what kind of other -- I would call that first firm or the traditional investment commission based at the time that got some different options but for a long time that's all they had, what other models in terms of the setup and different types of firms did you spend time at before you kind of ended up where you are now?
Katie: Right. So right after the first firm I went to another firm, they’re insurance-based but they actually have a model where it's pretty wide open architecture, like you don't necessarily have to sell that company's products, which is funny because I felt that was the norm and then I’ve seen some other insurance companies and that's not the norm at all. It was kind of a cool place to be. They always kind of started with financial planning. They really wanted to be working with business owners and complicated estate and business planning things because you know, life insurance fits really really well into there. I was then twenty-five (maybe still looked like I was eighteen), didn't have any roster or people to call. My dad wasn't in the business, could just chime in on his stuff. So, I mean, it was something where, once again, sometimes I list and call people land to a couple of appointments to stop those randomly calling people being like “Hey I just wanted to offer you a free consultation.” But it is of the day it couldn’t quite give me attraction off of that either. So I went to a bigger firm where they hired me as an associate planner and so it's quite different. There I was an employee of the firm. I didn't have to bring in clients and in fact, I think at one point I actually offered to bring in clients and they were like “We're not sure that you are gonna bring in the types of clients that we need.” I was like “okay.”
Sean: In what way in that example was that they weren’t gonna be? Kind of the high net worth type? What was the model and what made them think that?
Katie: They kind of had a wide array of clients while I was there. They had mostly high net worth clients but they had also taken on some where they kind of saw potential in the future. But they kind of wanted to not be taking on more of those potential in the future and embrace the minimum on everybody so that they were only working with higher net worth. I mean, you think about it, like the margins for them make sense to do that. It doesn’t make sense for them to take on a whole bunch of clients that are paying a fourth or a fifth of what everybody else is paying but still the same service model.
Sean: Sure. In that case at least to their credit they had at least a little bit of the sense of who they were trying to work with. As we know a lot of advisors or firms don't figure that out to their way down the line.
Katie: Yeah, exactly. I mean, so I do admire them for having kind of the business vision there. I kind of tried to push for like “Hey we don't necessarily have to have the same model for these clients” but if something’s working I wouldn't expect the firm to go change all of it. I think I got a little discontented and said “okay, well, I’m just gonna go try to do my own thing again.” I did that a few times. I took a little break from financial planning at one point to go to marketing for a unified managed account platform. At the end of the day I miss actually working with people. Like I miss when they say “Here's something that I'm really thinking about or that I'm really worried about” and being able to help them think about it outside of the box or “Here's how you can think about it and take a little bit of the emotion out of it” or even “Here’s how you can use your emotion to drive you to what your goal actually is.”
Sean: Yeah, it's hard for people who don't do that. It's hard to explain it when you just wanna say “You could do this or this” and ask the questions and dive in. And I think everybody that’s been in this business a while and enjoys it that it's not the same if you're not face to face with or at least phone to phone or some sort of device to device with..
Katie: Yeah, with our client.
Sean: With real people, yeah.
Katie: So I will say that the firm that we started at I thought was so hokey at the time but I still should print it out and put it in a frame and say “You've got two ears and one mouth for a reason.”
Sean: Yeah, exactly.
Katie: And I thought “God that’s just so hokey!” But the longer and longer I was in the industry the more I was like “Man, that thing was so true, you just have to ask a really good question.”
Sean: And I doubt they invented that saying but it is true. it's very useful.
Sean: Cool. So, I mentioned along the way you learned about what you didn't want to do and then tell me about how did you decide “Alright, enough of this working with/for other people. I see a way to create my richest life, if you will.”?
Katie: I’ve always been somebody who likes to come up with ideas and then kind of give them off to elder people for implementation, which is really not great. But I kept talking about this enough to where a friend of mine finally gave me a little kick in the butt and said “You just keep talking about this. Please quit talking about it and just give it a try.” And I’m like “Here's my thousand excuses of why it's not gonna work and she’s just like “No, really, just give it a try please. Give it a best effort. let's see how it works out.” So I’m very thankful to that person for giving me a little bit of a kick in the butt to point out that I was sitting here dreaming about my dream but wouldn't actually take action on it, convinced me to actually quit complaining about it and go take some action about it
Sean: That's a good friend to have, for sure. And that was how long ago now? That you dove in?
Katie: That was about two years ago.
Sean: And I know there's a lot of resources or sources out there that we can probably mention and pull out in terms of the ones I'm familiar with but how did you go about that setting up your own practice and how did you decide what platforms to use or not use? Tell us a little bit about that process.
Katie: I guess right about the time that I started having this debate with myself of “Do I start my own? Do I not? Do I go back working for somebody else?” I had a conversation with Michael Kitces because he's actually referred me to the firm that I left right before I started my own firm. I just wanted to be polite and call them up and be like “Hey I’ve burned any of your purchase. I apologize, sorry about that.” You know, and just kind of asked “What are you doing next?” and gonna tell them and I said “Well, if there were networks where they would kind of take some of the decisions off of your plate and give you a little bit more resources, like, would you consider that?” And i was like “This sounds wonderful. I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m pretty sure I can research everything.” And he was like “I'm thinking about launching that” and I was like “Alright, count me in. don't know what you're doing. I don’t know anything about how much it’s gonna cost or what you're even gonna offer but count me in” because if it means that I can essentially be an entrepreneur when I have a very not entrepreneurial talents then that would be great for me.
Katie: That's XY Planning Network.
Sean: Just a backup, one second, I'm curious. I can’t remember that part of your story. How did you link up with Michael in the first place to get that referral to that firm you worked for?
Katie: It's a small industry and if you've been it for a long time you tend to just kind of see everybody around like conferences and introduce yourself around and I've gotten to know Michael -- I think probably through conferences. And he's always been a really big proponent of the financial planning association and I've been in the financial planning association for a while and pretty involved here in the Dallas area. So, just that way.
Sean: Cool. Awesome. I know he’s obviously built not just the business that we're gonna talk about but several others, just quite the entrepreneurial but I think, like you said about yourself, not necessarily someone who would have thought of themselves that way ten or fifteen years ago. So when you said you’re not necessarily an entrepreneurial type of person, that's great to hear. Tell me a little bit about that -- if you had some sort of risk aversion because that's good for people to hear that maybe think “Well, going independent or starting your own thing is some huge undertaking.” How did you do it? Or how did you get over that other than your friend conceiving you? Tell me a little bit about that process.
Katie: I kind of let her go start her own firm from scratch.
Katie: And watched how that was going and provided some moral support and some like you’re-not-charging-early-enough type of support but I think it really helped to see somebody else jump off the cliff and actually swim and not go missing. And just being able to talk to people around the Dallas Fort Worth area -- people that I've known for a long time through the financial planning association -- being able to call them up and just being like “Hey I'm thinking about doing this. Can I come take up a little bit of your time and talk to you about it? You can tell me what your experience was and starting up your own RIA” and I had a couple of people do that and it just kind of made me feel like, I think I blow this up in my head a lot more than it needs to be and especially if you’re in broker dealer world they make compliant sound really really hard because they don't want you out there experimenting.
Katie: I think at some point, sometimes, you know, part of the industry is making stuff look like it’s in this black box because that's part of the way that you kind of get held to whatever company it is that you're at.
Sean: Sure. If you're unemployed there’s clear conflict of interest -- they’re not your advocate to help you make more money if that would include them making less. That's not how it works.
Katie: Exactly. I think part of that was what’s kind of hanging over me that I was just like “Oh my gosh, it's too hard cause I don’t know what I'm doing and if I don’t know what I’m doing I can't do it perfect.” And finally I was like “I can either do it perfect in like twenty years or I can just try to do it at all right now.” So I finally decided to jump in and give it a try.
Sean: Awesome. So, as XYPN got going I think you were a charter member, right? Is that how it worked?
Katie: Yeah back in my day, there was only like twenty of us (I think) that kind of started with the inaugural group.
Sean: Awesome. So tell me little bit about how that played into your kind of get and going. And I know there's a lot of tools and resources and encouragement committee and all that good stuff but they're not clients being hitted to you on a silver platter. Tell me a little bit about where they were helpful and then what was still left to you in terms of getting something up and running and viable and sort of how that's going.
Katie: Well, I mean, from the beginning I think it was helpful that I had been in the industry for a while and then I kind of knew like what my role is versus what like a network’s role is because I knew at the end of the day it’s like they could provide compliance guidance but if I got audited and they said “What is all this junk?” it's still my firm. So I still had to know what's going on. I can accept help from people but at the end of the day it’s still my responsibility. You know, there was some compliance help and kind of getting the initial documents going -- so the ADB, kind of how to navigate, configure website (sorry to regulators that are hearing this as something that’s crazy), so doing that, kind of getting a business plan in place, setting expectations, and then kind of focusing on like what I actually needed to be doing. Part of the sales training that I had received before was really helpful because while there are a million details, I kind of jotted those down and said “I'm gonna get around of these when I can” but at the end of the day like if I'm not out actually talking to people and explaining my business model and creating a good website and creating a good content like I'm not actually gonna get anybody to do business with. So it doesn't matter if I have like a shiny perfect business if I don’t have anybody in the business that's actually working with me.
Sean: Yup. Amen. I know XYPN’s big pushes and I think that it’s fine and definable niche but we haven’t really talked much about what XYPN tends to focus on. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about that and how that placen to who you work with?
Katie: In XYPN, their requirement is that you work with people in a fee-only capacity and that you have a business model in some aspect where you can work with Gen X and Gen Y. I mean, roughly, that’s clients under fifty, bilineals are up to about age thirty-five and Gen X’s about age thirty-five to like maybe mid-fifties. So we have to at least offer like a monthly payment or kind of like a retainer type of payment but it's also pretty flexible and that you can do that in AUM. You can do that instead of AUM, you can do project type clients if you want, which is good because I felt like probably the first year to me (even a year and a half) was just experimenting with who came, who turned out well, who didn't turn out well, who I like working with, who like working with me. And I'm still tweaking that so I think people seem to think that I might have that figured out but I’m like “No, we still have probably three to six months, sit down and figure out if the marketing efforts are in line with who’s actually a good client at the end.”
Sean: Gotcha. So basically someone that’s a baby boomer and have a way to get paid on a flat consulting fee-basis versus asset-based arrangement.
Katie: Right. And like I said it's pretty flexible. I mean, like, if I wanted to do one or the other, I could but it's just a way to essentially, you know, if you've got a thirty-year old that shows up and says “I make four hundred thousand dollars and I have an insane amount of student loans and my 401(k) right now has twenty thousand dollars”, normally in the wealth management industry they'd be like “Thanks kiddo. Here, let me give you a thirty-minute free consultation and a book about how to improve your future and come back whenever you have more money.”
Sean: A pat on the head for doing good and keep it up.
Katie: Exactly. So the whole point of having this kind of alternative model is being able to actually work with those people before they accumulate a bunch and before they’re enticing to the rest of the financial planning and wealth management industry.
Sean: I haven't dove into this, I’ll probably do an episode on it but can you give your explanation of the RIA world versus what I would call more the “hybrid world” -- either a hybrid working for a big firm or hybrid associated with independent broker dealer. Kind of give a sense of the differences and how XYPN tilts and how your practice’s set up. I think that’s useful for people that aren't familiar with those distinctions.
Katie: Yeah, I mean, whenever you're with an independent broker dealer you usually still have somebody running compliance for you and running compliance oversight for you. So you don't usually still have to take that on unless you decide to. So there are plenty of independent broker dealers who’ll let you go, get you serious twenty-four and let you supervise yourself and others -- some of them. I've been hearing stories lately about how they’re cutting back on that but you don't have the backstops here on your compliance. You still have somebody that’s like overseeing you. And then in independent BD world you might be able to operate as an RIA but you also might be able to operate as going to the broker dealer. So, you know, it probably comes down to choice of products and choice of compensation. For example, if somebody was leaving somewhere and they had a whole bunch of like trail revenue and they didn't want to get rid of their trail revenue, it probably would not make all that much sense for them to become a fee-only RIA.
Sean: And when you say trail revenue, can you evaluate on what you mean by that?
Katie: If they had sold annuities or if they had sold life insurance or they'd sold products were they were essentially so getting paid on the backend for it, without really having..
Sean: Anything, brokerage mutual funds at a broker account annuities, like you said, but not necessarily advisory, you know, asset-based fee.
Katie: Maybe so. I mean, mutual funds are a lot easier. I feel like, transfer them into an advisory type account and just switch the way that you’re paid on them. But there are other people that come from preparatory models and stuff like that and sometimes they never leave because they’re sitting there looking at revenue that just shows up every single month and they’re like “Why would I give that up?”
Sean: That’s true. They don't see the road/path to the advisory or RIA-only model.
Katie: Right. So on the RIA side, there's pluses and minuses of kind of being your own compliance person. The minuses are you have to do your own ADB update every year and so about like March 15th or whenever, weeks away from that deadline, you know, I kind of go racing at the university going “Why, oh no RIA!” It is not because it's all that hard. It's just because I'm sitting there trying to figure out what I want for that to look like.
Sean: Another thing to take care of and you don't get a gold star or any glory for getting it done.
Katie: Exactly, there is no pat on the head for getting that done. It's just something that you have to do. But on the flip side I don't have to go ask my broker dealer permission to contribute to an article which I find is really really beneficial for me just because once you establish some trust with writers, like once they figure out they can get ahold of you easily, you've got something good to contribute, you can actually water a dam in a normal people's language instead of giving them a much technical junk -- once you've established that, I have quite a few freelance writers and reporters and stuff that would say like “Hey, I'm working on this piece, can you contribute? I need it back within the time period.” I do it, I don't talk about anything product specific, not that they’re making stupid promises but then I have to archive that and I have to keep it in case anybody ever ask for it but I don't have to sit there and wait for a week for a broker dealer to get back to me and say “Well, you know, we didn't like this and we didn't like this” because writers aren't willing to sit around and wait for that normally. They've got a deadline and you can either help or you can't. So if you need them to get it back to you and take a week and a half, like broker dealer to give it their blessing of approval other times they won't wait for it.
Sean: Agreed. Even being hybrid world, if you can count something in the RIA side of things, it’s been helpful for us but that's a big frustration. When I listen to the XYPN podcast, you hear Alan Moore talk about that. He's never lived in that world so he doesn't quite get (unfortunately) the way it is. I'm not sure that’ll be that way forever because we see these regulatory regimes go over time but yeah, that's very helpful. And then can you define your understanding or what you would say your definition of fee-only because that’s one that I'm not sure that everyone has a good handle on.
Katie: So I'm a member of NAPSA and they have a pretty extensive description and what not of like what the standards are to be a member of NAPSA. But it’s essentially none of your revenue comes from commissions or commissionable type of things. It is funny because even fee-only, sometimes I feel like people might even misunderstand that because they might be like “Okay, so it means I always have to pay out of pocket.” And it kind of does but it could come from an account as an asset under management charge, it could come as a retainer, it could come as an hourly fee that you’re charging. So, I mean, even within being fee-only there are different ways to get compensated, they just can't come from 12B-1 trail revenue, can’t come from life insurance trails, can't come from telling life insurance. At least I learned all of the stuff about insurance so I can oversee the process but at this point I recommend what it is that I think the client needs and then I use a third party insurance firm to put that in place but I don't get paid anything from it.
Sean: It's great to be objective but sometimes you go “Well, you know it’s the right thing for the client but that's the model that kind of in play there so that's the way it is.” As long as your clients are taken care of then that's great.
Katie: I joke around my clients, I'm like “Oh, I would be making so much more money being a fee and commission advisor” and I’m like “But I decided not to do that.” That’s probably why we’re working together.
Sean: I always would say when recommending term life insurance, the good thing about it is it's so cheap that it doesn't matter if i don't get paid. That’s the whole point.
Katie: I'm only giving up like fifty bucks.
Sean: I think that's one reason there is the conflicts for people that like insurance and lo and behold, they seem to like permanent stuff a lot. They can't give that up if that's there business model.
Katie: I know, it's kind of shocking. Maybe the next thing that we publish is like, how much more new people make out of recommending certain products?
Sean: It's interesting and not that that's the only factor but it certainly can be an important one.
Sean: The definition I always understood or simplified to say -- follow the money. So if the money's coming from a product provider to me or you as an advisor, then that's not fee-only. So if it's an asset-based fee it's going from (in your fee-only capacity) your account to my account or through some custodian obviously but there's no question of who's paying who. The client is paying us directly one way or another.
Sean: Obviously, like you said, within “directly” that can be defined a number of ways. And that’s where I think (at least I find personally) I love the idea and concept of being fee-only, except that's a terrible terrible term for marketing. It's fee only! It's only fee!
Katie: Yeah, it's only fees! Don't you love fees? Everybody loves fees. Why wouldn't you love fees?
Sean: Coming from a world where I didn't know like that existed, like you did and being in it for long enough, it's hard to see the road -- there's a path there, it just takes a while and I haven't gotten around to it like a lot of us don't.
Katie: Right. I figured if I was gonna start from scratch. I'll probably do it the way that I want to set it up.
Sean: Now you're just showing off. That’s okay.
Katie: No. I often say like “I don’t know what the heck I was thinking” and I was like “Look, I just had zero clients and I'll just start this completely from scratch” knowing that a lot of times people take their sweet sweet time to finally like “Start doing financial plan” but at the same time I'm like “Well, I knew it's gonna be a slow growth” but then I knew at the end of it that it was gonna look exactly like I wanted it to look like.
Sean: Great. And would you say how far along that path are you now? After two years or so.
Katie: So I did hit profitability earlier this year which is like "Woohoo!"
Katie: And now I'm kind of working on...
Sean: And how do you define profitability? What's the methodology to get to your profit or loss?
Katie: That would be like "Can you actually pay your bill to keep your firm operating?" And to the marketing that you wanna do..
Katie: So that was good because if you start up any business you kind of have to have the money upfront that you put into it. So I hit profitability and actually paid back the loan to the bank of Brewer because I intentionally saved that money and then took it out and then paid it back.
Katie: So all of that is good. And then any time that you're in financial services, at some point starts picking up more and more attraction, which is good so I think I met a point where I've got some people that are referring other people to me, Ive got a really good relationship with some writers and some reporters. So it's at a point where I can be a little bit more selective so I'm trying to kind of tweak marketing a little bit just to make sure that I'm attracting the kind of people I wanna be working with long term.
Sean: Right. That makes a lot of sense because I think that's one of the great benefits of starting from scratch, from a business standpoint but not from another experience, like you said you are able to crash that just how you want it versus like many of us do, sort of building something and then it's a work in progress, it wasn't a tear down, you're definitely remodelling the business versus building it from the ground up. If someone were kind of where you (or I) were kind (I don't know), say age of ten years ago, I'll loosely define that as knowing kind of what they're doing in terms of feeling comfortable with clients. Maybe they have some core client base just for illustrate of purposes of some that are a big name firm and they've got some assets -- that's a large function of how you stick around there. If they've got some clients, maybe it's fifteen to twenty-five million assets and they realize they don't wanna be there forever, how would you advice and then go about looking at the different options available to them?
Katie: When I was at the first from that I was at, I was staying in touch with some people. I feel like a lot of times, people that left there only left because somebody else showed up at their doorstep and said "You can make a lot more money doing this other thing" and maybe it worked out for them or maybe not but I feel like maybe if you're gonna make that big of a change that you should do a little bit more research on the different options that are out there and not just whoever calls you up and says like "Hey we've got this shiny way to do business over here."
Sean: And I would say, I'm thinking of, if this person is -- they are mindful of building something for a long term, that's a great advice because I'm talking to you. I'm thinking of you. I'm thinking of myself and again, it's not that easy to assume that it was gonna be there but if someone's trying to build something, ideally they have to make one move over a long time or maybe it's an evolution but this is gonna be a foundational step.
Katie: Right. Just in doing that, maybe looking at like where your business is right now as far as like the types of clients and products that you have in your business, being able to run a couple different scenarios like "Does it make sense for me to go independent?" or "Does it make sense for me to go straight to RIA?" in figuring out like what that means to you or does it make sense for you to take like a humongous bonus off of another firm to stay there for seven years? because I've seen that quite a bit too. But, you know, any of those scenarios could make sense. As financial planners that's funny, like we'll tell other people what to do but then we don't really wanna like sit there and evaluate our own situation.
Sean: Yeah, I agree. I think that's very true and I think your previous thought of talking (like you did) to other people that have been there and done something different, I think there's definitely a value in finding someone who's doing what you consider doing. And then I think the missing part sometimes is survivorship so go find some people who started where we did, like you and I started at the same firm. If someone was gonna go work for that firm or if they could find us, it's not that hard. If you know where to look, get the other side of the story, "Hey, why did you leave? I don't have anything terrible to say about that place. It just wasn't gonna be the lifetime employment place for me."
Sean: Same thing with the wirehouse I was at. It served the purpose but it was temporary.
Katie: Yeah. I know it's hard whenever you're at a place where they don't look kindly upon you leaving with what they consider their clients. If you're gonna reach out to people just explain to them that you're in a situation where you need to talk to them confidentially like "Are they ok with that?" And there are a lot of people that are fine with that. I've had people -- just recently, I had somebody reach out to me that was kind of "Tell me what's going on and what they're thinking about doing." And I know that that person is in a situation where they they don't really need anybody else knowing what it is that they're thinking about doing.
Sean: Right. And luckily, those of us that have come through that, 99% of the time (I would hope, maybe not quite that high) but we get that so we respect the privacy and confidentiality. You wanna be smart about who you talk to but I'd say most people understand that. They're not gonna do something stupid but it doesn't hurt to mention that everytime you speak with someone.
Katie: Right. Exactly. Just to make sure that they know because they've never been in that situation. They might not even think "Oh, it might really harm this person's business and their client relationships if they find out by somebody else this person is thinking about leaving."
Sean: Agreed. One of my ideas for this podcast was there's a lot of information out there but most of it is journalist because those of us that have practice, people are actually working on that. They're not messing around with building a podcast. Katie, I appreciate your time talking about this because this doesn't do anything spectacular for your day to day business. I appreciate kind of the giving back nature not just here but you've done this on other podcasts. I know you went to Radical Personal Finance Podcast a while back, you've been on XYPN radio, anywhere else, if you want to hear your story over and over they can go find you.
Katie: Over and over? I've been on Stacking Benjamins a few times but I don't think that they really got into depths of what the background was. But it's always interesting to get his perspective as well, he's in a totally different place. He doesn't have the practice anymore. He has a podcast.
Sean: And that podcast is more consumer-facing generally speaking?
Katie: Yes, that podcast is more consumer-facing.
Sean: Cool. Now, I know that you get quite a few request for time and expertise and I think you've been wise to convert that into potential consulting opportunity. How can people find you if they want to and can you get a sense of what you usually charge for your time in that situation?
Katie: I just made the decision at one point that I was gonna essentially charge advisors the exact same thing that I charge my clients. If I work with them on an hour basis, just because there are a lot of people that just wanna chat. Usually if I've known them and have known them for many years, out going for a lunch and that's it. But if I accepted lunches from all the people out there that are thinking about starting their own practice I would be thirty pounds heavier and I would be spending all my time on it. So I set up an accout on something called clarity -- it's clarity.sn/katiebrewer-cfp and it's something where somebody can essentially go there, they can book an appointment and then allows you to kind of do everything at the same time, like you can request the appointment and put in there what you want to talk about, putting your payment method. It makes it really easy on anybody who wants to talk somebody for like coaching purposes and then it makes it really easy on me because we're not spending several hours going back and forth just talking about when it is that we can talk and how it would actually work if I was helping somebody think through like starting their own practice or something. It's not like it's a big revenue maker for me but it does kind of separate out the people who want advice but don't wanna pass anything for it from people who actually value it.
Sean: Right. That's a great idea. I think if you can find someone you know or someone you know, know someone, kind of connect the dots, we all want to help someone if it's someone we know but we all have limited time. And we don't touch on that, usually I do but why don't you just have all your huge staff to all you work for while you're at these lunches?
Katie: I have a virtual assistant who I adore and love. So she does actually organize some stuff for me. She can help with like appointments and follow up and stuff like that but in part of the whole leg starting your own firm, it's kind of a dance between keeping your overhead low while your revenue grows. So there are a lot of things where I use an executive office through a company called Regus. I don't have an actual physical office unless I go book it. So that's something that, you know, at first I was like "Oh my God, people are never gonna do business with me if they can't show up and see my office with a fountain in it or whatever" and nobody cares, like I've had a few people that are like "So, do you have an office there or do you not?" and I'm like "I do. I have an office that I can book ahead of time" and they're like "Oh okay, that's interesting" and then that's it. If that's something where they decided that that's deal breaker then it's a good thing that we got it out of the way beforehand because they might have different expectations of what they're looking for.
Sean: Yeah, I think that's a great fit. It helps attracting the right people. I think if you skew younger like your clients might in general, hopefully it's less of an issue but if it is, there's somebody else -- that's not gonna matter.
Katie: I do tell people in the area that I'm in in Dallas Fort Worth, if they wanna meet one time, two times, a couple of times, in person I'm okay with that. I just need to actually like plan ahead. They can't just show up and be like "I'm having a financial planning emergency!" which shouldn't exist by the way. If they're doing that then they need to actually like call me or we could set up a time to talk.
Sean: Cool. Like I said, I love talking about the different decisions people make about staffing and real estate and that sort of thing but I don't want to take up the rest of your day because I could shoot the breeze about that as long as people will sit here.
Katie: I actually did an article at some point in time so we could post that link up but it's just actually about what it's like to work as a virtual financial planner. And that did go through like, how I communicate with clients, what kind of tools that I use. I'll give you a very quick rundown of my favorite technology tools. Scheduleonce is one of them, similar also to Calendly and Timetrade. If you're gonna check one out, just look at all three of them. It essentially lets me put my calendar as a link so people just go to my website and just "Do you want to talk to Katie? Click here" and they click there and it shows them times in their timezone (so the say I'm in this timezone), it calculates it out for them, it shows the available times, they put in some information that I require beforehand and then it goes to me for approval and I actually have the app on my cellphone so I can approve it right then at that moment, it goes on my calendar, they get a confirmation and a link to put it on their calendar. Oh my gosh, I swear that saves me so much time!
Sean: Yeah, I think there are people that still (today) are paying an assistant to basically do that.
Katie: Yeah, do the back and forth and "Which time works for you?" and "We'll put it on there." I mean, I do work with younger people. I think sometimes that a sixty-five-year old doesn't like my scheduling app but a forty-five-year old thinks it's awesome and efficient and great. So those are things where you just know your audience. Financial planning side, I use a tool called Right Capital. It's financial planning software but also does aggregation. I could do a whole podcast on financial planning software but i just I just don't know what and there are so many that are very very retirement heavy that just didn't make sense for like the story that I'm trying to tell my clients, which is "You make really good money. Let's figure out how to put it to its best use" and then I show them something that's like "You're not on track for retirement!" and then it's like "Of course I'm not on track for retirement. We've got like five other things that were trying to take care of before that." I feel like Right Capital is one where it's really easy to use, doesn't take me that long to actually build the plan, the graphic looks good, the linking is good. I mean, they are very new to the scene so it's something where I'm willing to kind of take the risk on what the the deliver wall looks like to kind of get an easier to use financial planning tool that I can use.
Sean: That makes sense to me. I think that's the improvements that I can see -- definitely can on the ease of use not just for client but for us to get the data and to get great output in a relatively user-friendly manner. That's a big issue.
Katie: Yep. So those are my main tools -- Regus, Scheduleonce, Right Capital, a computer that's really good, I use Google Voice still. Every couple of months I go "The phone quality on this, I'm not sure if it's excellent" but then I was like "Hmm, I paid zero dollars for Google Voice that is super flexible. It lets me record calls" and so I haven't quite moved off of that one yet.
Sean: I'm with you. That's one of my favorites. I can't get over what a great treat tool that is. I'm glad to hear someone else that appreciates it like I do. Cool. Is there anything else that you want to add, Katie? I really appreciate the time and I think this will be very useful for people that are (looking at) learning the different options out there for setting up their own practice. Anything else you'd want to mention that we didn't' touch on?
Katie: I just feel like if somebody is thinking about going independent, don't shut yourself down automatically. Don't sit there and wallow in the "Oh my gosh, this is gonna be really hard" because it probably will be hard for a little while but if you can kind of envision what you actually want your relationship with your clients to look like, what you want your day to day to look like, what you want the future of your practice to look like, all of those benefits probably far outweigh the being uncomfortable for six months while you try to make the transition.
Sean: Yeah, I'm with you. I think for a lot of us building the client-based, man, that's not easy. I felt when I've made the change and talk to other people -- if you can build the business part, moving it is short term pain for long term gain. I think you're right, starting the business part is not intimidating as we sometimes think it is.
Sean: Thanks again, Katie. I'll catch up with you some time soon!
Katie: Alright, thanks Sean!
And there you have it! Hope you enjoyed that conversation with Katie Brewer, a wealth of knowledge from her background in the industry and especially setting up her own practice here in the last few years. If you have any thoughts or comments about this episode or any prior episodes please e-mail me sean@indyFA.com. And like you heard Katie say, if you're interested in learning more about her path and what she might be able to share that applies to you, she's willing and able to do that for a modest consulting fee. I'm happy to take any questions or calls or e-mails and not charge for it at this point so if you have any specifics you'd like to discuss, don't hesitate to reach out -- that's one reason I started this podcast, I enjoy those kinds of conversations. If I can help people either come to a decision of their own or find other resources, I’m more than happy to do that. Thanks for listening and we'll see you next time.